Why Venice is on the water

Venice satellite photograph
Venice in its lagoon as seen from space. (Photo courtesy of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)

Who's crazy idea was it to build a city in a lagoon anyway? (A brief history of Venice)

Why build a city of stone in the middle of a muddy lagoon where it is destined, eventually, to sink into oblivion?


As barbarian hordes feeding off the fall of Rome overran the Italian peninsula in the 5th century, some locals in the Veneto region found it safest to settle where no barbarian in his right mind would come looking for them (or their potential plunder)—in the middle of the water.

Other islands in the Venetian lagoon already supported fishing communities, but in short order young Venice managed to establish itself as a shipping center, electing its first doge (ducal ruler of an republican government) in 697.

Venice built trade ties with Byzantium to the east and began its inexorable rise as a commercial seafaring power.

By the 13th century, Venice had conquered many of its neighbors, including Byzantium.

Venice circa 1650.
Venice circa 1650.
By the 16th century this trading republic had become the Queen of the Adriatic, a mercantile powerhouse that exercised its control over the entire Mediterranean through colonies stretching from the coasts of Croatia and Albania to Crete, Corfu, and Greece (arguably the most famous Greek island is still known by its Italian name, Santorini).

From its formal founding until Napoleon conquered the city in 1797, Venice remained a proud, self-governed republic for a record-setting 1,100 years—the longest surviving independent state in the history the world.

Maybe building a city of stone in the middle of a muddy lagoon wasn't such a bad idea.

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Venice tourist information
Giardini ex Reali, San Marco (between Piazza San Marco and its western ferry stop)
Vaporetto: San Marco–Giardinetti Reali
tel. +39-041-529-8711

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